The Austin Chronicle Guide to SXSW 2017

Phosphorescent

Wednesday

SXSW Records

Phosphorescent

To Willie (Dead Oceans)

Covering Willie Nelson is an exercise in hubris, making Phosphorescent's tribute to the Texas icon all the more substantial. Graceful, honest, and wringing every understated ounce of emotion from the tunes, Matthew Houck focuses on the country figurehead's wearier numbers, the Sunday morning after Saturday night's whiskey river. Houck's hiccuped and cracked delivery on opener "Reasons to Quit" and "Heartaches of a Fool" is wracked with regret well beyond his years, taking cues from the original's behind-the-beat phrasing, while "Pick Up the Tempo" and "I Gotta Get Drunk" lazily infuse some energy. Despite the synthesized haze of "Permanently Lonely," arrangements remain largely sparse and traditional, pedal steel crying on "The Last Thing I Needed (First Thing This Morning)" and "Can I Sleep in Your Arms" swelling in secular gospel harmony. "The Party's Over" closes with a honky-tonk nod to Phosphorescent's own Aw Come Aw Wry, a fitting homage. (Wed., Club de Ville, 12mid; Thu., Mohawk Patio, 9:40pm.)

***.5

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